Partner's support vital in bladder cancer recovery

Medics urged to harness power of relationships in bladder cancer journey

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SUPPORT VITAL: Researchers say health professionals would do well to harness the the power of patient's carers.

SUPPORT VITAL: Researchers say health professionals would do well to harness the the power of patient's carers.

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Partners and carers could be doctors' new weapon in tackling bladder cancer.

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HAVING a supportive partner is vital in dealing with the daily impacts of bladder cancer, and health professionals would do well to capitalise on this.

Researchers in nursing and medicine at Flinders University say giving partners and carers clear and concise information, counselling and support for patient management, with attention to individual and day-to-day needs, is key to gaining better outcomes.

Bladder cancer is a painful and sometimes life-threatening condition that patients can find difficult to talk about. Many become homebound as they cope with debilitating side effects such as incontinence.

The cancer mainly starts between the ages of 50 and 80, affecting men at a ratio of three to one. As with prostate and other male cancers, the majority of support and care is taken by the wife, spouse or an immediate family member.

It is characterised by recurrence and progression, so often needs ongoing surveillance and treatment.

Nursing and Health Sciences researcher Susan Heyes said chronic ill health and complications associated with treatment can put pressure on the patient, as well as their spouse, partner and family.

She said the battle with bladder cancer can run over several decades, with the treatments - including chemotherapy or surgery, and sometimes co-morbidities - taking a toll on all involved.

"They are often too ill or in too much pain to be bothered with activities outside the home," Dr Heyes said.

"It also can see a couple becoming quite confined to the home due to incontinence, which can discourage them from joining a club or community result as a result of the treatment and embarrassment of the condition.

"This may involve a frequent urge to urinate, which can catch them off guard and perhaps look odd in public."

Despite continuous improvement in treatment options, outcomes usually involve long-term surveillance with repeated complications including possible muscle invasion by the cancer resulting in the removal of the bladder and possible death.

"Throughout the study we found a supportive partner was vital in dealing with the daily impacts of bladder cancer, and health professionals can capitalise on this in a number of ways," Dr Heyes said.

She said giving partners and carers clear and concise information, counselling and support for patient management, can help cancer nurses, doctors and other health professionals manage the shock and fear of diagnosis, pre- and post-surgery issues, treatment and recovery, sexuality and body image, and support and comfort.

Toward an Understanding of Patients' and their Partners' Experiences of Bladder Cancer, 2019, by SM Heyes, KN Prior, D Whithead and BJ Bond (Flinders University) has been published online at Cancer Nursing.

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